Thursday, June 23, 2005

SCOTUS Eminent Domain Decision Subtly Revolutionizes Geopolitics

The Washington Post reports that:
Cities may bulldoze people's homes to make way for shopping malls or other private development, a divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday (Kelo v. New London), giving local governments broad power to seize private property to generate tax revenue.

Aside from the fact that it is big news anytime the Federal government forgoes a chance to wrest power from localities, this particular ruling has subtle but profound geopolitical ramifications. There is a fundamental tension in geopolitics between two competing principles:

  1. Self-determination vs
  2. Territorial integrity

Recent geopolitical fashion, driven largely by the US Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, has subordinated self-determination to territorial integrity. Specifically, territorial boundaries may not be changed in service of self-determination of minority groups or even majority groups. Self-determination has been limited to mean the ability of residents of a territory, whatever their background, beliefs or preferences, to impose their will on other residents of that territory. To address the objection that this results in tyranny, a long, ambiguous and, in practice, selectively enforced list of "human rights" has been declared by the United Nations -- rights that are supposed to prevent tyranny. Part of the rhetoric for this sort of territorial integrity is the prevention of forced migrations.

By allowing eminent domain compensation to eject residents from their homes in service of other private uses, Kelo et al v. City of New London states that civil authorities may find it necessary to force the migration, with just compensation, of some of their private citizens, for the benefit of other private citizens, so long as the greater public good is served.

The logical consequence of this is that pressure will build allow changes in borders to support the self-determination of displaced peoples. If this happens, it will dramatically reshape geopolitics for the better since self-determination will no longer be an empty phrase hiding tyranny of the majority beneath a sophistic laundry-lists of so-called "human rights" -- territorial boundaries will be changed to uphold self-determination of those displaced with just compensation, as well as those who stay.